Oyster Reef Restoration: Substrate Suitability May Depend on Specific Restoration Goals

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


A limited supply of oyster shell for restoration practices has prompted investigations of alternative substrates used in construction of artificial oyster reefs. The success of oyster reef restoration projects is increasingly focused not only on oyster densities, but also on habitat provisioning for associated fauna. A subtidal oyster reef complex (0.24 km2) was restored in the Mission‐Aransas Estuary, Texas, U.S.A. , in July 2013 using replicated mounds of concrete, limestone, river rock, and oyster shell substrates. Oyster and reef‐associated fauna characteristics were quantified quarterly for 15 months, using sampling trays that were deployed 3 months after construction. The highest densities of oyster spat occurred 9 months after tray deployment (July 2014, 1,264/m2), whereas juvenile oyster densities increased throughout the study period to 283/m2. Concrete (1,022/m2) and limestone (939/m2) supported the highest number of oysters over all dates. Oyster shell (1,533/m2) and concrete (1,047/m2) substrates supported the highest densities of associated motile fauna. Faunal diversity (Hill's N1 ) did not vary by substrate material, but did show seasonal variation. A simple benefit–cost ratio was used to indicate the localized monetary value for each of the substrates. Oyster shell and concrete substrates returned the highest benefit–cost ratio for motile fauna, while concrete yielded the highest benefit–cost ratio for oyster abundance. Incorporating benefit–cost ratios in restoration planning will allow practitioners to better integrate substrate‐specific ecological values with economic considerations and project goals to maximize return on restoration investments.

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Restoration Ecology





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